Home > Uncategorized > Getting to the Starting Line

Getting to the Starting Line

February 23, 2014

Nick Kristoff’s column in today’s NYTimes depicts the harsh reality of rural poverty, using an indigent family in West Virginia as a lens to examine the issue:

Poverty isn’t just a lack of money, but sometimes a complex web of challenges that keep children from ever reaching the starting line. One home I visited was a trailer jammed with eight people, and some nights it has double that. None of the adults has a job, and most are former drug addicts or alcoholics whose addictions began when they were children. Two are convicted felons, which makes job-hunting difficult. Several dropped out of school. Only one can drive.

They have lofty dreams for their children, but those kids face struggles that middle-class children don’t. Breaking the cycle of poverty means helping those kids get a solid start.

Earlier in the column Kristoff describes what it needed:

What would make a difference? We need an integrated set of early interventions, starting with family planning to help women and girls avoid unwanted pregnancy (four out of five births to teenagers are unplanned or unwanted). We need outreach efforts to help pregnant women curb use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, as well as free at-home help for new moms who want to breast-feed.

Let’s push for home visitation programs that encourage parents to speak to children and read to them; many low-income homes don’t have a single kid’s book. We also need initiatives to reduce exposure to lead and other toxins. Finally, how about screenings for problems like hearing and visual impairment — all followed by a good prekindergarten.

…(And) all young children should have a primary care physician who screens them for eight barriers to learning: vision problems, hearing deficits, undertreated asthma, anemia, dental pain, hunger, lead exposure and behavioral problems.

Kristoff is absolutely right about this… but as long as we believe “government is the problem” and any government intervention is disrupting family life we will not make any progress in dealing with this vicious cycle of poverty be it urban or rural. As long as the poor stay to themselves, self-medicate with drugs, don’t seek abortions, and don’t complain about water quality they will remain off the radar of most Americans and ALL politicians. We need more mainstream columnists like Kristoff shining a light on this issue, more members of the public seeking government programs, and more taxpayers willing to pay more for services for children if we ever hope to solve this problem.

%d bloggers like this: